One of the most common conversations I have with top performers on my team centers around opportunities to become a manager. It’s great to be ambitious, of course, and I love to see people rise to the next level in their careers.
But there’s an important reminder I like to give: The skills that are required to be a high-performing individual contributor are not always the same as those required to be an exceptional manager. This matters because bad managers can run off employees. In fact, Gallup’s latest State of the American Manager report says 50% of US workers have left jobs to get away from their managers.
The sad thing is, that it doesn’t have to be this way. A study by West Monroe Partners shows that 59% of those who manage 1–2 people report having gotten no formal training. Of those who oversee 3–5 workers, 41% say they haven’t been trained.
Whether or not you receive training, there are some key steps you can follow to make sure you get it right. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Look at the company from a leadership perspective
Managing people is very different than performing in solo-contributor roles. Think about what you already know about the organization, and then ask yourself what kinds of things your new team may ask you.
Learning more about the organization from the leadership point of view will help you field questions and make informed recommendations. How will your team fulfill its functions with respect to the company mission and values? Can your team serve other parts of the organization? What are the upcoming business priorities?
Experienced leaders can offer insights and valuable institutional knowledge. Let your own manager know you want to learn. Set up 1:1 meetings, or sit in on strategy sessions.
Walk the talk: Act like a good manager
New managers feel scrutinized. Relationships will be different, given your new authority. Your team is paying attention in ways they didn’t before, and your comments naturally carry more weight now.
Appearances matter. Be mindful of this because your staff will follow your lead.
Some new managers make the mistake of trying a little too hard to be liked. It’s understandable for you to want that, especially if you’re managing people who until recently were your peers. But you can’t always please everyone. Problem prevention, problem resolution and coaching are your priorities.
That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or be kind and encouraging. You get to set the tone and the example. Build your credibility by treating all team members fairly and equally.
Be open and clear
Gallup’s State of the American Workplace says employees don’t perform for three reasons:
- Unclear and misaligned expectations
- Ineffective and infrequent feedback
- Unfair evaluation practices and misplaced accountability
To get off on the right foot, set up weekly 1:1 updates. Think about letting the employees run these meetings. Set expectations together, and stress accomplishments over activity. Also, outline how they will be accountable for outcomes.
Your team will rely on you to let them know what’s going on at the company. Schedule team meetings to update everyone on what’s happening, including things you can share from management meetings. Invite questions. If you don’t know the answer, assure them you’ll find out and then circle back.
Everyone wants to feel heard. When you give team members your full attention, it shows you’re truly listening. Consider their solutions before offering advice.
You may be used to doing the work yourself, but part of this transition means letting others take responsibility. This isn’t as easy as it sounds: One area I continue to work on is strategic and thoughtful delegation of work.
So carefully identify tasks and projects you can assign to them so you can focus on the more strategic functions of your new role.
Delegating to team members and giving guidance helps them learn and grow. (And it will help keep you sane as you adjust to your increased responsibilities!)
Provide constructive feedback and counsel, but don’t micromanage. According to Dr. Jonathan Quick of Harvard Medical School, having an overbearing boss has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep deprivation, weight gain and anxiety.
And if you show people you trust them, you will develop a loyal staff — and maybe uncover leadership potential on your own team.
Find a mentor
Being a new manager can feel isolating. You’re working to impress your boss, and you may feel hesitant to admit things you don’t know. A wise, impartial mentor can counsel, stretch and enlighten you.
Your company may offer a formal mentorship program you can join. If not, seek out someone who manages the way you want to manage. Or you may want to call on someone you respected at a previous employer.
Once you’ve found a mentor, make your questions specific and limit your interactions to occasional inquiries and check-ins. Make sure they know you’re grateful for their help. If you meet for coffee, for example, you might offer to pick up the tab as a thank-you gesture. And don’t forget to pay it forward when someone asks you to be their mentor in years to come!
Learning, delegating, communicating and being a worthy example to your staff will come naturally in time. As you settle in to your new role, be easy on yourself.
If you’re not a little nervous, then you’re not growing.
Best of success in your new role!
Carmen Bryant is Director, US Marketing at Indeed.